City balks at historical registry for Big Gun Quarry

Rocklin opposes nomination to National Register of Historic Places for granite mining site
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Controversy continues in the public battle over the preservation of the Big Gun Quarry on Pacific Street. On Dec. 19, the Rocklin Heritage Committee nominated the quarry site under the California Granite Company designation for the National Registry of Historic Places. Heritage Committee spokesperson Carol Ellis said getting the property listed is important to the community. “The name, Rocklin, comes from our granite mining history,” Ellis said. “It is the reason this town exists and it is important to save this unique piece of history for future generations.” The city council approved a demolition order on the century old work sheds in September, citing potential safety concerns. However, a review of police records by the Placer Herald found no reports of trespassing on the quarry site since the city took ownership in 2010. The city has also placed a chain link fence around the site. The prestigious label by the National Parks is mostly honorific, and does not support claims against private owners interested in changing original structures, including demolition, reports Jay Correia, a historian at the California State Office of Historic Preservation. “The only thing listing it in the National Register would do is ensure the building is treated as a historical property in their environmental review analysis,” Correia said. “It doesn’t mean they can’t tear it down. It just means they’ll have to discuss the impacts of tearing it down.” That’s exactly what the Heritage Committee wanted when it threatened a lawsuit in October against the city over what they deemed the city’s lack of environmental review. That same month, the city agreed to conduct an environmental review, which includes evaluating its historical nature. The Rocklin Historical Society considers the site the only remaining work buildings representing 150 years of granite mining in the city. The quarry work sheds processed stone for the State Capitol building as well as the iconic Transamerica building in San Francisco and other California landmarks. Mayor Brett Storey said the city, as the property owner through the Rocklin Redevelopment Agency, opposes the nomination. “The designation of a national historical site is potentially crippling to any normal sense of development,” Storey said. He noted the designation would severely limit the potential the site may have for creating a vibrant downtown. “We purchased the land with the intent to have some development that would be complimentary to our history and place,” Storey said.  “We do not wish to have impositions to the idea of creating a landmark area.” Correia said the nomination comes without requirements, restrictions or prohibitions. “It is the most misunderstood fact about the register,” Correia said. “You could have the most historic property in Rocklin and just because it’s on the National Register doesn’t mean you couldn’t tear it down tomorrow.” Ellis describes the Rocklin Heritage Committee as concerned Rocklin citizens — some of whom are also members of the Rocklin Historical Society. Their ultimate goal is to buy time to recruit a developer or philanthropist who could transform the site into a tourist destination. It’s unclear if the city’s opposition could block the registry when the quarry’s nomination is heard before the State Historical Resources Commission in May. “Technically, the California Commission is not supposed to take local government opposition into account. But they are a political commission,” Correia said. If approved, the nomination would go to Washington, DC for final approval. Rocklin Heritage Committee member Elaine O’Deegan is concerned the city’s posturing indicates they aren’t doing enough to preserve the city’s history. “So if our city says they will reject this property from being placed in the National Register of Historic Places, what does that say about our city’s respect for the history of our town,” O’Deegan said. “Our mayor’s reaction is so telling and typical of the people we have representing us when it comes to preserving Rocklin’s history.” Storey countered that opposing the registry is about keeping local control. “No city or land owner in America would allow an outside organization to determine the limits on their land over and above the local regulations,” Storey said. Adding to the controversy is the law, upheld by the California Supreme Court last month that will dismantle the Rocklin Redevelopment Agency, which purchased the property for $1 million in November 2010. On Feb 1, a successor agency could legally be given control the property and then be forced to sell the property. ________ Yay or Ny? Do you support or oppose historic registry of Big Gun Quarry? Write: California Granite Company Nomination California Office of Historic Preservation P.O. Box 942896 Sacramento, CA  94296-0001